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Member Highlights – May 2016 | Energy Access Practitioner Network


Member Highlights – May 2016

SunFunder closes $15 million round to finance local off-grid solar companies in Africa

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a U.S. government financing agency, has approved a $15 million loan for a new fund set up by SunFunder to support solar energy in developing countries. Off-grid solar financier SunFunder, based in Tanzania and San Francisco, provides project finance loans and short-term inventory loans to solar companies deploying off-grid projects in Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. The $15 million loan will be used to finance a combination of solar PV, lithium-ion batteries and LED bulbs — technologies that could add up to a $3 billion market by 2020. According to OPIC, the companies supported by SunFunder will be small and local: “The vast majority of the downstream loans will support small and medium-sized enterprises, and an estimated 25% of financing will support women-owned or women-led businesses. An estimated 73% of the fund’s customer base will be located in rural areas.”

Fenix International hits 60,000 in solar leases for its ReadyPay Power

Fenix International, the largest provider of off-grid home solar in Uganda, announced that it has signed over 60,000 leases for its product, ReadyPay Power, since January 2014. The leases, totaling $11 million in value, have brought an estimated 300,000 Ugandans power for the first time, and each lessee their first line of credit. The leasing system works by obtaining a small deposit from the customer, then obtaining the remaining cost of the system through monthly payments, which last between 18 and 24 months. The total cost of the system is approximately $200.

M-KOPA Solar connects 50,000 Ugandan homes to PAYG solar

Pay-as-you-go solar company M-KOPA Solar has announced it has connected 50,000 off-grid homes in Uganda, with 25,000 more coming in, proving the off-grid solar market is gaining significant traction as Ugandans realize they do not have to wait for the grid to access affordable power. The M-KOPA 4 solar home system comes with an 8W solar panel, two upgradeable LED bulbs, phone charging, USB with five ports, rechargeable torch and radio, alongside 24/7 customer support and a two-year warranty. The company offers an annual mobile payment plan. 

Mobisol wins green startup award

At the Ecosummit in April – Europe’s leading smart green innovation and impact conference for startups, investors and corporates in Berlin, Amsterdam and London – Mobisol received the silver medal as one of the best smart green startups in Europe. Mobisol sells off-grid solar PV kits in Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, providing electricity to distant rural communities. To date, Mobisol has already sold about 50,000 systems, providing electricity for more than 250,000 people and on average selling 120 units per day. 

SunFarmer is powering reconstruction with solar in Nepal

On April 25, 2015, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Just over one year later, the country is still affected daily by the consequences. SunFarmer is assisting the reconstruction with solar: Immediately after the earthquake, SunFarmer provided 1,020 solar lanterns, 78 community solar systems and 2 water purification systems to communities in need. Now in 2016, SunFarmer has shifted from short-term relief to long-term reconstruction, having built 10 Dolakha health posts, and planning to power 100 houses built by Habitat for Humanity. 

Azuri Technologies announces Azuri East Africa and HomeStart

Azuri Technologies announced the creation of Azuri East Africa, based in Nairobi, to consolidate its growing presence in the region. Azuri has appointed mobile industry leader and former Regional CFO of Eaton Towers, Snehar Shah, to lead its East Africa operations. The Nairobi office will bring together Azuri’s East African activities under a single operating entity in order to best share the organization’s knowledge of PayGo best practices while maintaining the responsiveness of local representation.

Azuri has also announced HomeSmart™, a self-learning capability for its solar home systems. While conventional solar home systems work well in sunny conditions, they often shut off early on cloudy days because they run out of power. HomeSmart uses learning technology to monitor both climatic conditions and historical customer usage patterns to ensure a full night of light, even following cloudy days. HomeSmart marks the next step in intelligent automation applied to Azuri’s leading PayGo solar home systems. 

Simpa Networks and Orb Energy secure grants from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures

Two Indian solar companies and members of the Practitioner Network, Simpa Networks and Orb Energy, have received financial backing from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) to change lives for those living without grid connectivity – two out of six companies awarded a total of $5 million. Rather than have customers pay large sums for solar panels, the companies use a rent-to-own “solar-as-a-service” model. In northern India, Simpa Networks offers what it calls “radically affordable” energy choices. Through Simpa, families can make low initial investments and flexible payments over time, eliminating the need for costly bank loans for many without credit. Meanwhile, in the south, Orb Energy works to expand solar access to small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) through a branch network system, allowing for local production, distribution and jobs in solar. 

SolarKiosk launches 7kW solar system in Ghana

SolarKiosk launched SolarKiosk Ghana Limited, a fully solar-powered and off-grid company, licensed to undertake home and office solar installations in Ghana. SolarKiosk Ghana Limited is a subsidiary of SolarKiosk AG, a company based in Germany that manufactures “SolarKiosks”, an energy system that provides essential energy services to Base-of-the-Pyramid (BoP) communities. SolarKiosk Ghana Limited is expected to enable and empower local entrepreneurship by intertwining an award-winning technology solution with a successful inclusive business model.

Nova-Lumos partners with DFID to power Northern Nigeria

Nova-Lumos, an off-grid electricity provider, has been awarded a grant of £150,000 from the SolarNigeria Programme (SNP), an initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), implemented by Adam Smith International. The grant enables Nova-Lumos to accelerate its operations in northern Nigeria and increase power access to the 90 million Nigerians who currently live without connection to the electric grid. It also complements the recent $15 million financing the company secured from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development finance institution, which is being used to fund the deployment of over 75,000 systems across Nigeria in 2016.

The Nova-Lumos system provides the home with a solar panel linked to an indoor connections unit, allowing customers to access significant amounts of power on demand, day or night. With mobile payments, users transfer small amounts via SMS for the affordable, pay-as-you-go system.  The Nova-Lumos model is highly scalable, in large part due to its partnership with MTN, Nigeria’s largest cellular provider, which enables the service to expand across all parts of Nigeria.

Bringing Small-Scale Solar to Rural India: a Discussion with Harish Hande, Selco

In India, where nearly 300 million people lack access to electricity, small-scale solar power is expanding, but according to Harish Hande, co-founder of Selco, the growth has less to do with a changing climate and more to do with changing lives. Listen to the full podcast here.

2nd India Off-Grid Energy Summit planned for August

Building on the success of the 1st India Off Grid Energy Summit (IOGES) held last year, The Climate Group and the Clean Energy Access Network India (CLEAN) in partnership with Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) are hosting the 2nd IOGES which will further catalyze ideas and innovations to strengthen the decentralized renewable energy sector in India. The summit will be held in Delhi on 10-12 August 2016. More details will be shared closer to the event.

 Powering Agriculture’s online course on sustainable energy a success
USAID’s Powering Agriculture just concluded its first, very successful, Sustainable Energy for Food massive open online course (MOOC). Nearly 1,700 participants from around the globe took part in the course, reviewing weekly videos and reading content, taking quizzes, and working in teams to submit group projects. The MOOC platform, including all materials and links, remains available online.   

IFC, GIZ urge tax-free solar lanterns in Bangladesh to bring off-grid power to the rural poor

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) have requested the government of Bangladesh to offer a tax-free regime for import of solar-powered lanterns to help lighten the country’s vast rural areas still out of the national power grid. They are helping Bangladesh under the joint venture ‘Lighting Asia’ program to bring off-grid electricity to the rural population. Presently, the total tax incidence on Solar Pico PV systems is 24%, which makes the product unaffordable to the poorest segment of people who still remain powerless. IFC and GIZ have been promoting quality-tested solar lanterns in Bangladesh with the hope of replicating the success of Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia-India under Lighting Global.

Urban Green Energy to install 6.3 MW of solar in Canada

Urban Green Energy (UGE), a global leader in distributed renewable energy solutions, is pleased to announce that, through its wholly owned subsidiary Endura Energy Project Corp. (“Endura Energy”), it has executed contracts for the development and construction of 6.3 megawatts of solar projects in Ontario, Canada. The projects will be owned and operated by TREC Solarshare Co-operative Inc. (“SolarShare”), Canada’s largest non-profit solar power community ownership cooperative. The portfolio consists of 11 sites: two 600-kilowatt ground-mounted facilities near Kingston, ON, eight 600-kilowatt ground-mounted facilities in Timiskaming, ON, and one 300-kilowatt rooftop facility in Earlton, ON. Each of the ground-mounted facilities will utilize advanced dual-axis solar tracking technology. Completion of the portfolio is expected to generate between $18 million CAD and $20 million CAD of revenue for UGE, with project funding starting this month, and construction progressing into 2017. 

 ARE releases new website and platform

The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) has just released its newly designed website. The new website features a Global Off-Grid Matchmaking Platform that showcases ARE members’ activity, country and focus areas. 

 WWF-Pakistan, Brighterlite Pakistan join hands to promote affordable solar technology

World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) and Brighterlite Pakistan Private Limited (BLP) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to kick-start cooperation for a Pay-As-You-Go solar home systems project in Pakistan. The WWF-Pakistan and BLP will facilitate cooperative initiatives to promote the use of renewable energy sources. In the first phase of the project in collaboration with K-Electric, basic electrification will be provided to 1,745 households with the objective of scaling up to 10,000 households in Karachi and its suburbs.  Also by joint initiatives, WWF-Pakistan and BLP will provide distributed electricity by means of solar home systems to more than 100,000 households during the next five years.

Think Again: Video by ECREEE on Women in the Energy Sector

This 55-minute long video by Ecowas Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECOWAS) shows how women in countries like Senegal, Cape Verde and Nigeria are contributing towards promoting energy access for all.


ECREEE “THINK AGAIN” 55 from Avidia on Vimeo. 


 Ethiopia, where the Paris Climate Agreement gets real

Author Peyton Fleming and her family were in Ethiopia, standing in front of a tiny solar-powered trailer on the same day that global leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York to sign an historic climate agreement. The solar-powered kiosk, operated by SolarKiosk and one of 31 in Ethiopia, provides power for solar lighting, mobile phones, batteries and even computers. It also sells a few varieties of solar lanterns, starting as low as $12 (basic lamp) and $25 (a lantern with a USB charger) up to as high as $150. Most villagers are using the small lamps, with a hand-sized solar panel, which provides six hours of light after every charge. The kiosk where Fleming and her family stood was the first of what is now more than 150 solar stands SolarKiosk is operating across Africa, most of them in rural areas where electric grids do not exist.


SunCulture’s accomplishments in 2016

It has been three years since SunCulture launched in Kenya. Year one for SunCulture was about proving the technology, year 2 was about proving the model, and this last year was about proving growth. SunCulture has seen a lot of growth in 2016. They have grown their team from 13 to 30, and they have moved beyond Kenya, making strategic sales in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan. Additionally, they have designed a drip irrigation kit that will fit in the back of a sedan, take a technician one day to install, and only costs $890, including delivery across Kenya, saving farmers the hassle and expense of traveling to the city to collect their irrigation system.

SunCulture’s progress can be seen through the fact that farmers currently using SunCulture’s solution are (annually):

  • Saving 1,711,200,000 liters of water.
  • Saving 360,000 liters of diesel fuel.
  • Generating 90,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy.
  • Reducing 397,440 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Growing 9,300,000 kilograms of fresh fruits and vegetables (enough food to meet the FAO’s minimum required fresh fruits and vegetables consumption for 42,466 people).
  • Realizing $3,237,450 in savings and increased yields.

SunCulture’s framework is driven by access: information access, product access and financial access. They believe that the most successful startups in Africa have been ones that design, manufacture, finance, sell, distribute, and provide after-sales support for their own high-quality products, and they are going to do the same. They believe they have shown early success at being a product design company, a manufacturing company, a bank, a sales company, and a distribution company.

WISIONS of sustainability: Hybridization of micro hydro and solar technologies in India

One of WISIONS’ current energy projects in India aims to integrate an existing micro hydro power unit into the national grid in order to prevent it from becoming non-operational and to demonstrate the potential for grid-connected micro hydro solar hybrid systems. Their partners at Ashden India Renewable Energy Collective (AIREC) began working on the project in October 2015 and have recently completed the first project phase.

To better understand the needs of the community in Upper Killing village with respect to socio-economic conditions and energy consumption at village and household level, AIREC and its local partner organizations conducted a detailed baseline survey. The results demonstrated that electricity for household use is the priority, followed by electricity for community services. The study also indicated that expenditure on electricity bills has increased significantly since the village was connected to the national grid. Furthermore, AIREC and the NB Institute of Rural Technology (NBIRT) carried out an extensive technical assessment of the existing micro hydro power plant to understand the technical challenges faced in ensuring the smooth operation of the plant, which has been non-operational since the village was connected to the national grid.

The next steps will include the installation and commissioning of the solar PV power plant, the implementation of an intelligent circuit controller unit and operationalization of the micro hydro power plant, including technical training and capacity building activities.


Flexiway Solar Solutions featured by NRS International
NRS International, an industry leader in manufacturing and developing core relief essentials for the humanitarian community, has been shortlisted for the UPS International Disaster Relief Award for its integrated and immediate response in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. The award recognizes businesses that make a unique contribution to addressing international disasters and help communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. NRS International also is participating in the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, at which NRS International will feature the humanitarian solutions from its subsidiaries NRS Relief, TANA Netting and Flexiway Solar Solutions, which is a Practitioner Network member.